Recovery After a Gout Flare-Up: What to Expect

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
man relaxing on sofa in living room with feet up and reading on a handheld device
Getty

Gout flares usually come on suddenly, often in the middle of the night, and are very painful. This form of arthritis strikes when sharp crystals from excess uric acid in the body form in a joint, such as the big toe or knee. The symptoms of a gout attack are severe pain, redness, tenderness, swelling and warmth. Recovering from a gout attack generally takes 1 to 2 weeks, but there are treatments to help you feel more comfortable and get you back on your feet.

Gout Flare-Up Medications

An acute gout attack will generally peak within a day after it starts and then you can expect to begin to improve slowly, even without treatment. It can take as long as two weeks to recover completely, but gout, as painful as it is, is one of the more treatable forms of arthritis.

If you are not already on a medication to lower uric acid, do not start taking it during an attack. If you are on one, such as allopurinol, continue to take it as directed by your healthcare provider. Pain relief options during a gout attack include:

  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), except for aspirin
  • Indomethacin, a prescription NSAID 
  • Colchicine, a prescription medicine that can be used with NSAIDs
  • Steroids, if you cannot take NSAIDs; your doctor may give you steroids in a shot or pill 

It may take several hours to several days before you can expect relief, but follow the recommended dosages of your medication carefully—don’t take more of the drug for faster relief.

Additional Gout Flare-Up Treatments 

In addition to medications, you can help treat the pain from your gout at home by doing the following:

  • Ice the joint. Ice can help numb pain and reduce inflammation. Apply an ice pack covered in a pillow case or other material for 20 to 30 minutes at a time several times a day.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of fluids helps flush uric acid out of your system, which may quicken your recovery and help prevent kidney stones. Try to drink up to 16 cups of fluid a day: At least eight cups of water and the rest clear liquids like broth or green tea. 
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol, especially beer, contains high levels of purines, substances in your body that lead to the creation of uric acid and slow its removal from your system.
  • Elevate the joint. If the gout attack is in your toe or knee, prop your leg up on a stool or pillow, which can relieve pressure and reduce pain.

 

  • Rest as needed. Activity is unlikely to affect your gout recovery, but don’t push yourself too hard if the pain is severe.

Although a gout attack will go away on its own, medicine and other treatments can help shorten its duration. It’s important to control gout because it can damage joints over the long term and can sometimes lead to kidney disease or other health conditions. Talk to your doctor about medications that lower uric acid levels to prevent recurring attacks of this common but painful form of arthritis.

Was this helpful?
31
  1. Symptoms and Diagnosis of Gout. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. https://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-info/gout/clinical-presentation-of-gout/
  2. Managing a Gout Flare. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/more-about/managing-a-gout-attack
  3. Gout: Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment. Hospital for Special Surgery. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_gout-risk-factors-diagnosis-treatment.asp#treatment

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 19
View All Gout Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.